The Spectator

Portrait of the Week – 25 January 2003

A speedy round-up of the week's news

Police raided the North London Central Mosque in Finsbury Park, long suspected to have terrorist links. Seven people were arrested and a stun gun and a CS gas canister were seized. The government dispatched 30,000 troops and 120 Challenger tanks to the Gulf in preparation for an invasion of Iraq, but insisted that war was not inevitable. Half of the soldiers have bought their own boots, a Ministry of Defence survey revealed, because they didn’t like the ones with which they had been issued. The Education Secretary, Charles Clarke, proposed to allow universities to charge their students up to £3,000 in tuition fees. Mr Clarke also announced that he wished to devise a ‘British baccalaureate’ to replace GCSEs and A-levels, missing the point that what makes the baccalaureate so respected a qualification is that it is independent of any state. An unemployed Welshman who devised a computer virus that damaged thousands of computers around the world was jailed for two years. The Chancellor, Gordon Brown, was not at all pleased. The Home Office bought the only hotel in Sittingbourne, Kent, in order to use it as a hostel for asylum-seekers. The Strategic Rail Authority tried to improve punctuality by removing more than 100 train services from the timetable. The firemen held another strike. The Parole Board declined to grant Tony Martin, the Norfolk farmer jailed for shooting a burglar, an early release. Matthew Kelly, a television presenter, was the latest celebrity to be arrested in a police investigation into alleged paedophilia. Inland Revenue staff were found to have been snooping at the tax records of the famous and selling details to outsiders. A photography teacher at a college in Doncaster was sacked for allowing a pupil to bring to school a toy gun she wished to photograph for her course.

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